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House committee approves ban on transgender athletes in girls school sports

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Lauren Chapman/IPB News
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People who testified against HB 1041 Monday said the bill is looking for a problem to fix, and demonizes transgender children and youth.

Statewide restrictions would be placed on transgender girls' participation in school sports under a bill approved by some Indiana lawmakers Monday. Protests erupted in the House chamber after a committee voted for the bill to advance.

A crowd chanted "What do we do when trans kids are under attack? Stand up fight back!" as other individuals shouted "shame on you" following the House Education Committee's approval of House Bill 1041.

The bill would create a statewide ban on transgender girls participating in girls school sports, and require school sports and teams be designated for a certain gender or as a mixed league. It also requires schools create a grievance process and creates an avenue for someone to file a lawsuit for violations of the parameters outlined in the bill.

Bill author Rep. Michelle Davis (R-Whiteland) said the proposed legislation is about preserving fairness for girls and women athletes.

"The purpose of this bill is to maintain fair competition in girls sports, now and in the future," Davis said.

Some parents and others in support of the legislation said they worry about transgender girls having possible advantages in elite or high-level athletic competitions due to their biological sex.

But public testimony from LGBTQ+ Hoosiers, parents of transgender people, advocacy organizations and medical experts mostly opposed the bill.

Kit Malone with the ACLU of Indiana said it will hurt especially vulnerable children who want – and perhaps need – a sense of belonging.

"This bill bans kids from playing soccer with their friends," Malone said.

READ MORE: Demonstrators rally to support transgender Catholic students, protest archdiocese

Chris Paulsen from Indiana Youth Group joined several others who pointed out the mental health risks transgender youth face, especially when their identity is targeted by politicians. She and others cited a recent survey from the Trevor Project, a national nonprofit to prevent suicides among LGBTQ+ youth.

"The Trevor Project's 2021 survey of nearly 35,000 youth, ages 13 to 24, show that more than 50 percent of transgender youth have seriously considered suicide in the past year," Paulsen said.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association also weighed in.

Paul Neidig is the commissioner of IHSAA and said he has questions about some parts of the bill. He didn't say whether he supported or opposed it, but he told lawmakers that IHSAA developed a policy more than a decade ago to address gender and participation in sports, and it relies, in part, on medical expertise.

"The policy is based on what we believe to be fairness, opportunity and balance of interest – at the forefront of our consideration was the IHSAA's commitment to Title IX," he said.

The bill doesn't say anything about ensuring equal funding or scholarships for women's sports and athletes. It also does not prevent transgender boys from participating in boys school sports.

Ahead of the vote, the committee made changes to the bill so it does not apply to colleges and universities.

All of the Democrats on the committee, as well as Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany), voted against the bill. It now moves to the House floor.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

Jeanie Lindsay